I remember when I first became a hardcore Xbox fan in 2001. Although everyone I knew at the time had a Playstation 2, I was more than happy to talk about how awesome Azurik, Fable and Killswitch was. The clunky controller didn’t phase me, I never played online and I barely knew about anything Sony released for the Playstation 2 and… I didn’t care. I didn’t snatch up an Xbox 360 console until 2008 and decided to come out of my single player “shell” to venture online. During the short era when PSN was hacked and consumer information was vulnerable, I considered me spending the extra money for a “more secure” gaming experience a great decision and even poked fun at Sony fans every chance I got when they brought up the “Red Ring of Death” (which never happened to me, by the way) .
Just two years ago I purchased a PS3 on a whim, with a couple of used games along with a Kinect for exercise (that now collects dust). Slowly, but surely, the PS3 became my default console; I had almost double the amount of friends to play with and I enjoyed being able to discuss games with a larger crowd than my group of 360 fanboys/girls. Then, murmurs of the next gen consoles began to buzz– “What would be the name of the next console?”, “What were the gaming possibilities?” , “What games are they going to have?” and, most of all, “How much were they going to cost?”
Rumors of the “Always Online” feature of the next gen Xbox became fact, gamers voiced concerns and Microsoft’s PR spiraled into the abyss. April was the beginning of Microsoft’s PR nightmare. A Microsoft executive, named Adam Orth, tweeted for critics that complained about the unnecessary feature to “Deal with it” and took his leave shortly thereafter.
The much hyped reveal in May received mixed reactions; some gamers, like myself, were impressed with what they had in store for the officially named Xbox One, but most were unmoved as the XB1 seemed more focused on branching out into an entertainment system with gaming possibilities on the back burner. Microsoft tried their damnedest to sell the voice sensor and the mandatory Kinect, and you would think the lukewarm response would humble them enough to re-evaluate who they should be catering to. But the terror continued.
I took a chance and waited in line for last minute press registration for the Microsoft conference at E3. After waiting two hours, we were told we were “Lucky” and that seating was available for us. After seating was done, I noticed that whole sections were empty even after all the press and developers were settled in. I thought, “I sure hope Microsoft pulls themselves out of this rut.” Games were announced, a new slim 360 made an on screen cameo, then Sony crushed them with one line, “No used games restrictions”, even with an overall boring presentation.
Once again, the always online feature was the center of attention. Not everybody has internet that’s able to handle large downloads and some don’t have internet at all. Don Mattrick’s, the ex-frontman for the Xbox One, response was “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity: it’s called Xbox 360.” After the initial cringe, gamers raged and journalists swam in this golden blunder that was handed to them on a silver platter.
To make things worse, a few days later, Microsoft’s Twitter page for support was asked a simple question: ” Is the Xbox One region free or not?” Military consumers were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to play their games while deployed. After confusing tweets confirming whether or not the console would be restricted to the region it was purchased in and a surge of pressure from snarky game industry news titles and disgruntled fans, Microsoft finally let on that the Xbox One would indeed be region free.
Fast forward to now and Don Mattrick has moved onto Zynga (Mafia Wars Farmville, Cafe World, Yoville) and all Xbox One related dealings are lead by Marc Whitten. Microsoft removed it’s DRM policy even after claims that they couldn’t, since the Xbox One was “built around it”, there’s no need for you to have a 24/7 online connection, nor do you have to connect to the internet once a day. The Kinect, following accusations of being a tool for the government to use to spy on consumers any time they like, went from being able to be turned off completely to not mandatory at all (even though it’ll still be packaged with the console at launch day and you wont be able to use sensor features without it) and has matched Sony by creating a program called ID@Xbox for self-publishing.
But even with Microsoft making amends, by finally listening to its fans, will it be able to match or surpass Sony’s preorder sales by a November launch or, even, the holiday season?
My answer is no. Even after Microsoft repented for past mistakes and scrambled to match Sony, yet distinguish itself as an entertainment console, the damage has been done. Aside from the fanboys/fangirls, their constant back to back press releases on mundane things such as including headphones with the Xbox One on launch day, garnered a collective eye roll from fans and haters alike. Microsoft hiding basic apps like Skype on the XB1 dashboard behind a pay wall further drove them into a hole. The self-publishing program ID@Xbox will understandably give developers with a proven track record first dibs, but it still makes it harder for the little guys even though it’s free. The price is still $100 dollars more than the Playstation 4, the unexpected manufacturing delays in 8 of the 21 announced regions and even with the software changes, most of us are expecting for Microsoft to pull another 180 and shove all the removed features down our throats once again and, probably, still accompanied with poor communication.
So as I reluctantly made my pre-order for the Playstation 4, I’m still rooting for the Xbox One, but don’t see it shining until late next year.
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This article was first posted on August 21, 2013